Unveiling the secrets – Everything you need to know about different types of dental fillings

Dental fillings play a crucial role in dental care, from addressing cavities to restoring tooth structure. The appropriate filling can seal the cavity, stopping the progression of infection. Fillings are a dental restorative procedure used for repairing decayed, cracked, broken, or worn-down teeth. A specific type of dental filling fills the cavity or hole left after cleaning out the decayed part of the tooth. This article provides information about the procedure and types of dental fillings.

Types Of Dental Fillings

  • Dental fillings play a crucial role in maintaining oral health by addressing common dental issues like tooth decay, cavities, and minor damage. These fillings come in various materials, such as amalgam, composite, and ceramic, each with its pros and cons. When selecting the type of filling, patients should consider their preferences and the severity of the damage. Amalgam fillings, also called silver fillings, are highly durable and suitable for molars and heavily used teeth.

Although they have been popular in dentistry for over 175 years, their use is gradually decreasing. This is because silver amalgam is not very aesthetically pleasing and may cause the surrounding tooth structure to appear greyish. Therefore, it is not the ideal choice of filling for visible teeth. On the other hand, composite fillings, made of plastic resin and finely ground glass particles, blend seamlessly with the surrounding teeth. Ultimately, the choice of filling material depends on individual needs and preferences to maintain optimal oral health.

Preparing For The Procedure

  • Your dentist will begin with a comprehensive dental examination to assess your oral health thoroughly. This examination helps them understand your specific needs and tailor the treatment accordingly. The pre-procedure assessment includes evaluating the extent of dental damage and determining the most suitable filling materials for your case.

Your dentist will explain each step carefully, ensuring you are fully informed and comfortable with the procedure.

In some cases, a temporary dental filling may be placed. This is typically done to ensure that the edges of the cavities are smooth and not sharp, which could potentially cause harm. The temporary filling will be replaced with the permanent one during the dental filling procedure.

Step-By-Step Dental Filling Procedure

Dentists routinely perform dental fillings, making them one of the most common restorative treatments in the US. The anesthesia makes the procedure typically pain-free. If needed, over-the-counter painkillers can be used after the standard procedure.

The steps involved in the dental filling procedure are listed below:

Step 1: Numbing For Comfort

  • The initial and the most crucial step in the dental filling procedure is ensuring your comfort. Dental work can induce anxiety in many individuals. However, dentists use a two-fold approach to eliminate any discomfort.

Pre-numbing Gel

  • Before administering the local anesthetic solution, a pre-numbing gel containing 20% benzocaine is applied to the injection site. This gel is designed to pre-numb the area, making the injection much more comfortable. In some cases, dentists may proceed directly to the injection without using the gel.

Local Anesthetic Injection

types of dental fillingsYour dentist will then use a syringe to administer the anesthetic, effectively numbing the tooth and surrounding area. Common options include Lidocaine, Mepivacaine, Septocaine, and Buprenorphine. The anesthesia typically takes 3 to 5 minutes to take effect. Once you are numb, your dentist will proceed with the procedure, ensuring minimal discomfort.

Step 2: Decay Removal

  • Decay often occurs as discolored areas, typically brown or black, on the tooth’s surface, characterized by a soft texture. It can be easily removed with a various technique:

High-speed drill

  • In most instances, a high-speed dental handpiece equipped with diamond burs is used to remove the decayed portion of the tooth.

Caries Indicator

  • A pink dye known as a caries indicator is used to ensure that all the cavities have been removed. This dye acts as a visual aid, staining any remaining tooth structure that cannot be remineralized. The use of dye ensures that the tooth cavity is entirely cleaned out, leaving behind only healthy tooth structure.

Step 3: Choosing The Right Filling Material

  • When it comes to dental fillings, selecting the appropriate material is crucial, as each option offers distinct advantages.

Here are the primary choices:

  • Amalgam fillings
  • Composite fillings
  • Gold and porcelain fillings
  • Glass ionomer fillings

Step 4: Placement of Filling Material

  • Once the appropriate filling material is selected, the next step is to place it inside the prepared tooth cavity. The technique used varies depending on the type of material chosen. For amalgam and certain composite fillings, the dentist will place the material layer by layer.

This approach ensures thorough coverage without leaving underfilled areas, resulting in a secure restoration. However, it’s essential to avoid applying an excessive amount of material at once, as this can lead to gaps.

Step 5: Allowing The Filling To Harden

  • Amalgam fillings are typically set within a few minutes on their own. However, if the dentist works too slowly, there’s a risk of the material setting before it’s fully packed into the cavity. On the other hand, composite fillings necessitate curing with an LED curing light to facilitate hardening.

Step 6: Adjustments And Bite Alignment

  • Once the filling material has hardened, the dentist will make the necessary adjustments to your bite. These adjustments are crucial to ensure that the filling aligns with your natural bite pattern, preventing discomfort during chewing or biting down.

Articulating paper (commonly referred to as blue paper) will be used to map out your bite. You’ll be instructed to bite down several times, allowing the dentist to identify any high spots or areas of discomfort. Then, these areas will be carefully ground away until your bite feels normal and even.

Step 7: Polishing And Finishing

  • The final step of the dental filling procedure involves polishing the restoration. Specialized polishers create a glossy finish, ensuring that the filling blends seamlessly with the natural tooth structure. This quick and painless process leaves you with a beautifully restored tooth and a confident smile.


  • From the initial diagnosis and preparation of the tooth to the selection and placement of the filling material, each step in the process is carefully performed to ensure optimal results and patient comfort.

By understanding the procedure and various types of filling materials available, you can make informed decisions about your oral health and work together with your dentist to achieve and maintain a healthy smile.

If you are suffering from tooth decay, contact Icon Dental Center and restore your tooth to its natural state. Our expert dentists will determine the most suitable type of dental fillings after assessing the type and severity of the damage. For more information, call us at (206) 225-2882 for Seattle and (425) 337-2400 for the Everett appointment.

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